HELEN LAFRANCE PAINTING/MAN UNDER STREETLIGHT PLAYING GUITAR/PICTURED IN "HELEN LAFRANCE MEMORIES" BOOK
This oil on canvas depiction of a man playing guitar under a street light was painted by noted Southern folk artist Helen LaFrance and is featured in Kathy Moses' newest book "Helen LaFrance Folk Art Memories." LaFrance's work also appears in a chapter in Moses¬í first reference book, "Outsider Art of the South" (Schiffer Publishing Ltd.). "Helen LaFrance Folk Art Memories," written in collaboration with Bruce Shelton with a foreword by Lee Kogan, American Folk Art Museum, NYC.¬†focuses on the life and work of this important self-taught Kentucky artist whose specialty is visually recording a fast- disappearing way of life. Born in western Kentucky in 1919, Helen LaFrance is the rare artist who is able to work deftly in more than one medium. She is an exceptional painter, quilter, wood carver, and Biblical interpreter. However, her real skill is her ability to connect with the viewer emotionally through the memories they both share. She paints scenes of a time and place that so many of us can respond to, for example her famed church scenes. These paintings fall into a category of American folk art known as Memory Painting. Measuring 36" high x 18" wide, this large painting is atypical of LaFrance's work in that one figure dominates the canvas, though she captures a couple seated in the bench behind him, no doubt enjoying the music. Perhaps that is why the bluesman fills so much of the canvas, because he loomed so large in LaFrance's memory. Perspective is more than looking at an object from a particular angle; it has to do with the image received by the eye and the thought that image evokes. And this is something you don't often see today-- --a bluesman playing his guitar at night on a downtown corner. There is a moodiness to this street scene, characterized by LaFrance's trademark attention to detail-----the subtle wash of the street lamp, the luminous windows lit from within, the snowy flowers on the bushes, the dark shadows and the starry sky. LaFrance shows off her skill in this painting. The interplay between the darkness and the lighting only serves to heighten the dramatic atmosphere. She appears to be fascinated with nocturnal light. The painting is signed by the artist lower left.
Helen LaFrance celebrated her 100th birthday in November of 2019. She died one year later in 2020 at 101 years of age.
The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY mounted a beautiful catalogued show of Helen's work running from August 30, 2022 through April 30, 2023 called Kentucky Women: Helen LaFrance.